Thursday, October 31, 2013

Afterschool: October

This month was a little crazy with a 2-week Fall Break in the middle of the month and then our community's annual Lights On Afterschool program taking the place of one of my Afterschool visits. Here are the books I shared with my group this month:

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012). I wanted to share something slightly scary, but not really Halloween-y and this fit the bill nicely. The ending is a funny twist and the color scheme really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the story. 

Shark in the Park! by Nick Sharratt (Corgi Childrens, 2000). Timothy Pope goes to the park with his telescope and keeps thinking he sees a shark at the park... but does he? While reading this one, I have the kids make telescopes with their hands and look up, down, and all around with me.

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat (Putnam Juvenile, 2012). This martial arts twist on The Three Little Pigs is definitely a crowd-pleaser. The rhyming text makes it a fun read and the martial arts details hold the interest of the kids. They asked me to read this one again, which NEVER happens with this group! 

For this month's craft, we did leaf rubbings, which I love because it is so cheap and easy. And if the kids enjoy it (which all of our kids did), they can very easily do it again at home or with their Afterschool group. 

We also visited the YMCA Fall Break camps twice this month and read to very large groups of kids (70-80 each visit). Their camp theme was superheroes, and here's what Miss A and I brought: 

Any new favorites for the school-age set? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preschool Lab: Changing Leaves

Last week we had our second Preschool Lab program and we talked about changing leaves. This was a fun program that can be done on a shoestring budget as long as you have a park or yard or somewhere to pick up some leaves.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. This is our standard opener for all preschool programs.

Welcome: I told everyone that today we're talking about changing leaves and I asked if anyone had seen some colorful leaves on the trees. Some had, some hadn't and for those who hadn't I suggested that maybe they would spot some on their way home today.

Felt: Fall is Not Easy (adapted from the book by Marty Kelley). We started with a silly story about changing leaves.

Book/Activity: We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. This story goes along the lines of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". After each obstacle, the children find a tree with different colored leaves. I passed out felt leaves in different colors and as we reached each tree, I asked the kids to bring up the appropriate color leaf for our leaf collection on the board.

Book: Leaves Fall Down: Learning About Autumn Leaves by Lisa Marie Bullard, illustrated by Nadine Takvorian. This book gives a very simple explanation to why leaves change color and why trees lose their leaves. I didn't read the entire book; we stopped right after the leaves fall off the trees and the branches are bare. I also didn't read any of the speech parts in the pictures, only the simple text of the story.

Demonstration: Changing leaves. I had picked some leaves from an oak tree by my apartment 5 days prior to the program and left them out. Then I picked some on the day before the program so we could compare. I let everyone come up and touch the leaves and we talked about how they felt. The fresh leaves were soft and tender. The older leaves were dry and crunchy. I got the idea from Busy Mommy Media, although I think doing the activity the way she describes might have worked better. This wasn't a program that would last 5 days, though, so I adjusted it. ;)


Felt Board: I put out the felt materials we had used in storytime and let the kids play with them. They could retell the stories we heard or make up their own. They also had fun manipulating the felt pieces (great for fine motor control) and sorting the leaves by color.

Leaf Sorting: I put out leaves in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and asked kids and parents to sort them. Everyone sorted by color, but I didn't see anyone sorting by other qualities. Some kids did notice that some leaves are more than one color or are one color on one side and a different color on the other side.

Leaf Rubbings: I put out paper and crayons and a selection of leaves and kids could create leaf rubbings. To make a leaf rubbing, put a leaf under your paper and then color lightly with the crayon on the paper where the leaf is. You'll see the shape of the leaf coming through! I figured this one would be popular and take the longest, so I put up two tables for this one.

Leaf Observation: I put out magnifying glasses and a selection of leaves and encouraged kids to look at and talk about the leaves. This one seemed to work best when I was there asking kids questions and helping to identify leave parts. If I did it again, I might include some clipboards and paper and encourage parents to write down their child's observations.

As before, I let everyone spend as much or as little time as they wanted at the stations and I had a selection of books for them to take home, as well as a handout with some activities they can do at home. Leaves is a great one to continue the learning at home because everyone has access to them somewhere! Again, I had a small but enthusiastic group. The entire program lasted about 45 minutes.

Next month we'll be talking about animals in winter, inspired by Christina Jones at the Monroe County (IN) Public Library!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reading Wildly: Scary

With Halloween coming up, we dedicated this month to scary stories for our Reading Wildly program. Knowing that my staff members have different thresholds for horror (and our library kids do, too!), slightly scary books were a-okay this month, as well.

And I added a dimension to our discussion this month by asking my staff members to read an article in addition to a novel. This is something that really added to our genre discussion and it's something I'm going to continue doing each month.

There has been a lot written about scary stories and children, so I passed out three articles and made one required reading. I found these articles on Inspire, our state library database search, and printed out or ran off copies for each of my staff members.

Required reading:

  • "Don't Let a Good Scare Frighten You: Choosing and Using Quality Chillers to Promote Reading" by Patricia O. Richards, Debra H. Thatcher, Michelle Shreeves, Peggy Timmons, and Sallie Barker (The Reading Teacher, Vol. 52, No. 8, May 1999). 

Optional articles:
  • "The Alluring Darkness: Finding Belonging in Fangs and Wands" by Chase M. Will (YALS, Summer 2008). 
  • "Scary Stories, Mixed Feelings" by Pat Miller (LibrarySparks, October 2011). 
We had a great discussion about the appeal of the horror genre for kids (something we saw first-hand when we brought creepy stories to booktalk to a local fourth grade class earlier this month). Sometimes, things that are very scary to adults are actually not that scary to kids (Richards et al., 1999) and changing stories to make them less violent and frightening can actually make them scarier. Richards et. al give the example of Little Red Riding Hood being scarier when the wolf runs away at the end (instead of being killed) because the wolf is still out there! 

Reading scary stories can help children work through their fears, experiencing capable characters that solve the mystery and/or defeat the bad guys. Horror is also a socially acceptable medium for reading about and exploring deeper issues, such as coming of age (Will, 2008). 

Reading and discussing these articles helped my staff see horror in a new light and gives us some ammo to defend this genre, which is super popular with kids and not always so popular with adults. 

Again, we shared our booktalks for the following books (I'm designating the slightly scary titles, as reported by my staff): 

I'm pleased that we had a wide variety of books talked about at our meeting this month. We definitely had a range of scary to not-scary that came about organically, and even some nonfiction. Huzzah!

Our topic for next month is nonfiction, which I'm limiting to narrative nonfiction. I explained that narrative nonfiction is nonfiction that tells a story, rather than a textbook that contains lists of facts. I passed out a list of the Sibert Medal Winners and Honor Books and encouraged staff to choose a book from this list if they have any doubts. I'm emphasizing narrative nonfiction because that's where I see kids needing readers' advisory. If they're looking to learn information about snakes, we can answer that reference question. If they're interested in reading true stories for fun, narrative nonfiction may fit the bill. Teachers, also, may be looking for more narrative nonfiction as our school corporation continues to move to the Common Core Standards. 

I also assigned an article to read that we'll discuss next month: "Making Nonfiction Accessible for Young Readers" by Sue Christian Parsons (Reading Today, October/November 2012). I'm really excited about the direction our Reading Wildly program is taking and looking forward to our next discussion!

What are you reading? Any favorite narrative nonfiction titles to share? 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nonfiction Monday!

Woohoo! It's that time again: I'm so pleased to host Nonfiction Monday this week! I'm really excited to see what everyone's been reading and reviewing, so please leave a link in comments and I will update our roundup throughout the day.

Tomorrow, I will be presenting with my librarian partner in crime Kate Conklin at the Indiana Library Federation Conference about teen nonfiction. We'll be talking about how to develop a great teen nonfiction collection and how to put it to use by promoting it and using it in readers' advisory.

You can find handouts from our session here: Resources for Evaluating and Selecting Teen Nonfiction and the printable list of books we'll be booktalking from. If you're attending the conference, I hope you'll stop by our session! You can find us Tuesday at 11am in Room 206.

Now, what nonfiction has everyone been reading around the interwebs? Leave a link in the comments!

Myra of Gathering Books shares a review of Nevermore: A Photobiography of Edgar Allen Poe by Karen E. Lang. She says, "This book provides a perfect overview for young readers who would like to know more about the Master of Macabre and his tortured life."

Sue of Sally's Bookshelf is writing about Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O'Brien. She says, "From the title page illustration (TJ constructing a library using books) to the end notes, this book is chock-full of fun information."

Over at Archimedes Notebook, Sue speaks with the author of Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck, illustrated by Jim Paillot.

Loree of A Life in Books examines Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins and Vicky White.

Jennifer of Jean Little Library reviews The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb. She says, "...this is an historical account that will definitely grab the attention of kids who are aficionados of World War II."

Alex of The Children's War reviews World War II Spies: An Interactive History Adventure by Michael Burgan. She says, "Like the other interactive history books, World War II Spies, will have lots of appeal to any reader interested in the war."

Jeanne of True Tales & A Cherry On Top features Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

Roberta of Wrapped in Foil reviews Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. She says, "Parrots Over Puerto Rico is one of those books that you need to have on hand because it can be used in so many ways."

Tammy of Apples with Many Seeds reviews 13 Art Illusions Children Should Know by Silke Vry. She says the book "takes us on an historical journey that explores and explains how the use of light, shadow and colour by artists can trick us into thinking that we are seeing something that is not really ‘real’ or ‘true’."

Janet Squires of All About Books features A is for Autumn by Robert Maas. She says, "Overall... the book is a visual pleasure and offers many opportunities for conversations about the season."

Anastasia of Booktalking features The How-To Handbook: Shortcuts and Solutions for the Problems of Everyday Life by Martin Oliver and Alexandra Johnson.

Sondy of Sonderbooks reviews The Tapir Scientists by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. She says, "This series shows that the life of a scientist can be adventurous and exciting."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Preschool Lab: Magnets

A couple of weeks ago, we did our very first preschool science program! (I really meant to have this post up much sooner, but I had some technical difficulties, so here we are!)

Preschool Lab is part of our new rotation of weekly preschool programs that we're offering this fall. Each Monday morning, we hold Preschool Explorers and our topics rotate between Wee Dance (music & movement), Preschool Lab, and traditional storytime.

For our first Preschool Lab, we talked about magnets and had lots of fun exploring them at our stations. Since preschoolers learn best through hands-on activities, the bulk of our program was spent at hands-on stations. Here's how our program went:

Intro/Welcome: I take a few minutes at the beginning of each program to talk up other stuff we have going on and encourage parents to sign up for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten.

Song: My Hands Say Hello - this is our standard opener and a signal to the children that it's time to start storytime.

Rhyme: Three Little Kites - I used our three little kites prop rhyme because it uses magnets to move the kites around. After I shared the rhyme, I turned the prop around and showed them the magnets that make the kites move.

Book: What Magnets Can Do by Alan Fowler. This easy reader has a small trim size, but I read parts of it to introduce magnets to the group. We talked about the shapes magnets come in, what items magnets pick up and what they don't and what common appliances use magnets.


We spent the majority of the program on stations. I had everything set up and gave everyone a very brief intro to what activities we had available and then turned parents and kids loose to explore. Each station had a sign posted explaining the activity and suggesting some questions to explore together. I spent the time wandering around, interacting with parents and kids, showing them how to do something or asking questions.

I already had a bunch of magnets from this Science Tools Center we purchased from Lakeshore Learning last year when we started doing science programming. (Just an FYI, the magnets included in this center are not very strong.) For this program, I also purchased magnet wands (which are very strong magnets!) and iron filings (both purchased from Amazon). The rest of the supplies were things we had on hand: pipe cleaners, ziplock bags, packing tape, and various odds and ends (both magnetic and non-magnetic).

Crazy Hair: This was probably our most popular station! (Okay, it was my favorite station, too. And the best part is that all of this stuff is completely reusable.) I found the idea on Pinterest from Laughing Kids Learn.

Magnet Fishing: (This was probably the next most popular station.) I put out some bins full of STUFF and made little magnet fishing poles. I provided charts for parents to help write down things that were magnetic and things that weren't magnetic. In the bins are paper clips, pushpins, clothespins, small binder clips, small metal bars that came with the Science Center, pony beads, pom poms, feathers, toothpicks, and wiggle eyes.

Iron Filings: I put some iron filings into gallon-size plastic bags and taped the openings securely shut. Then I put out some magnets so that kids could see how they would make the filings move. The iron filings are VERY fine, so I made sure to really tape the bags and I put a warning on our sign. We didn't have any trouble with them breaking open or anything. Kids also ended up experimenting with the red and blue ends of these magnets (which demarcate the poles).

Magnet Counting: Did you know that when metal is attached to a magnet the metal becomes magnetic, too? I meant to grab more metal objects (washers, bolts, etc.) for this one and I probably should have put a picture on the sign to show families how to do it, but it worked as a counting station anyway. (Can you see the two paperclips dangling from the magnet? It's kinda hard to see; apologies for poor photo quality!)

Magnetic Letters: I commandeered our magnetic letters for the morning and encouraged kids to find the letters in their names or sort by color.

Handout: I always like to leave people with a little something to take home, some ideas to keep the learning going and do with siblings or parents who might not be able to come to the program. On suggestion from Amy Koester (The Show-Me Librarian), I included some new words (attract, repel, and magnet) with definitions from one of our children's dictionaries. I also included a few activities from the book Play & Learn with Magnets by Gayle Bittinger (Warren Pub. House, 1994) and instructions and a link to Let's Explore's magnet painting activity. Magnet painting sounds really fun, but I wasn't about to attempt it with a group at the library!

So, how did it go? It went really, really well! I had a moment of panic at the beginning of the stations thinking that everyone was going to buzz through them in 10 minutes and then look at me expectantly, but the majority of the kids spent at least 20-30 minutes at the stations. I let families explore at their own pace and leave whenever they were ready. I had a couple who stayed until the end of the hour when I really had to start cleaning up.

I had a group of 10 kids, which is smaller than I shoot for in our programs, BUT it was a nice, manageable number for my first try at preschool STEM. Later this month, we'll be exploring why leaves change color! And I'm hoping our turnout will continue to grow as we continue to offer this new program!

Monday, October 14, 2013

"The President Has Been Shot!"

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson. Grades 7 and up. Scholastic, September 2013. 270 pages. Review copy received from publisher.


[From pages 44-45]

"On the morning of Thursday, November 21, John and Jackie Kennedy said good-bye to their daughter, Caroline, and flew in the presidential helicopter, Marine One, from the White House lawn to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Their son, John, who was almost three years old, loved flying in the helicopter, so as a special treat they took him along for the ride to Andrews. The boy wanted to fly with his parents to Texas as well. The president told his son that he could not come and that he would see him in a few days. The Kennedys took off from Andrews at 11:05am, flying to Texas on Air Force One, a sleep new jet that had become a symbol of the modern presidency.

"John Kennedy had been president of the United States for two years, ten months, and two days. He had left some unfinished paperwork behind on his desk in the Oval Office, including an autographed photograph of himself intended as a gift for a supporter. After inscribing the photo, he had neglected to sign it. It was of no consequence. He could sign his name once he returned from Texas."

As we know, JFK never did return from Texas because he was shot and killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963. This book puts you right in the middle of the action, giving the reader a bird's-eye view of all that transpired on that fateful day that changed history forever.

My thoughts: Holy cats, I loved this book. I have really been waiting for some nonfiction to wow me this year and this is it, folks.

Swanson gives you just enough background about JFK's presidency and Lee Oswald's traumatic life before plunging into a compelling play-by-play of Kennedy's assassination and its aftermath. I hid out, eating lunch in my office so that I could read undisturbed, which turned out to be an excellent idea since I found myself getting unexpectedly emotional as I read. Jackie Kennedy's strength as she stood by her husband through the entire ordeal, moved me to tears more than once.

This is just the book for teens interested in American history or anyone looking for gripping nonfiction. Swanson has a book for adults coming out next month (End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy), which I have to believe makes this teen book an adaptation, but it's very well done. I haven't read the adult title, but I felt like I got a complete picture in The President Has Been Shot.

Back matter is extensive and includes source notes, a bibliography, an index, suggestions of places to visit, diagrams showing the trajectory of the bullets and Oswald's path through the Book Depository fleeing the scene, and more. Throughout the book, archival photos are used to great effect, an important inclusion since the new media of TV and color photography were important players in JFK's brief presidency.


Readers who enjoyed the fast-paced history story might enjoy Swanson's other books for young readers: Chasing Lincoln's Killer and Bloody Times (both adapted from adult nonfiction books). I would also suggest Steve Sheinkin's teen nonfiction titles Bomb and Lincoln's Grave Robbers.

Readers fascinated by the Kennedy assassination who don't mind a fictionalized account may also enjoy Stephen King's 11/22/63 about a man who finds a wormhole that takes him back to 1958 and his mission to prevent Kennedy from being shot.

Hey, happy Nonfiction Monday! You can find this week's roundup at Perogies & Gyoza, so make sure to stop by and check out what nonfiction is being read across the blogosphere this week.

Friday, October 11, 2013

On Impostor Syndrome

Okay, so I can't stop thinking about Cory's amazing post on the Storytime Underground blog: Privilege, Intention and Impostor Syndrome. Seriously, go read it now. You will not regret it. I will wait.

*hums to self*

Done? Okay, good. The reason I can't stop thinking about it is because it resonates with me and with how I feel some of the time (less recently, which is good, but still sometimes and occasionally A LOT). Also, I feel like it should be required reading for all youth services librarians. Maybe all librarians. Maybe everybody everywhere.

CONFESSION TIME: I missed the original Guerrilla Storytime at ALA last summer kiiiinda because I was crazy busy with all the things, but also a lot because I was intimidated. Get up in front of all these amazing people and answer questions about storytime that are thrown at me?! What if I don't have a song for that? I don't feel amazing enough... I wouldn't have anything to contribute... I'm just an impostor...

And I have been kicking myself ever since. I missed out on my chance to hang out with all these awesome, welcoming, helpful people and jam about storytime.

It is so easy to fall down that rabbit hole of my-felts-aren't-as-awesome-as-Ms-Katie's and I-don't-do-as-much-STEM-programming-as-Ms-Amy and I'm-not-as-good-an-early-literacy-trainer-as-Ms-Melissa and I'm-not-as-connected-to-my-community-as-Ms-Marge and OMG-I-CAN'T-MAKE-A-BOOK-STICKER-EVERY-DAY-LIKE-MR-SCHU.

Climb up out of that rabbit hole.

Because there are some truths that you need to know:

1. Just knowing about and reading about all the awesome things being done by librarians around the country (including but certainly not limited to those mentioned above) is a GOOD THING. It's an excellent thing. It is a thing that not all librarians do.

2. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. By that, I just mean that ideas will keep. There are so many awesome things going on at libraries everywhere. Now the blogosphere has brought us together so that we're all aware of these things. But that doesn't mean you need to do EVERY IDEA RIGHT THIS MINUTE. You do the things you can. The rest will keep. If it keeps being something important to you, you'll get to it: when you have time / when your administration comes around / when it's the right thing for your community / when you have the right staff to get it done / etc.

3. You are doing good things. You are serving your community. You've been trained for and know what you're doing when you plan storytime, answer reference questions, visit schools, etc. etc. etc. Instead of wishing that you could be three people at once, own what you are doing.

4. SERIOUSLY, OWN IT. Don't be intimidated to go to Guerrilla Storytime. You'll miss out on all the fun*. And you do have things to share. And you have things to learn; own that, too. We're all learning all the time.

And it's okay to balance work and personal life whatever your situation may be, wherever your passions may lie. For me, personally, I do feel like librarianship is more than just a job. But it's still not my whole LIFE. And that's okay.

I know that Cory really said all of these same things in her amazing post. (DID YOU READ IT? YOU REALLY SHOULD READ IT.) But it's something that we ALL need to hear every now and again.

Take a deep breath.
The kids are alright.

* Wah :( 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Egypt Game

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Grades 4-7. Atheneum, 1967. 215 pages. Review copy from childhood.


The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they’ll have anything in common. But they soon discover that they both love anything to do with Ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind a curio and antique shop, they find the perfect place for The Egypt Game.

Suddenly wilted wildflowers become lotus blossoms, a lean-to shed becomes The Temple, and an old birdbath becomes an altar. The girls turn into high priestesses and Melanie’s little brother Marshall becomes the boy pharaoh. As the game gets going, it also begins growing and before long there are six Egyptians playing instead of two.

But when a girl is murdered in the neighborhood, the game, with its sacrificial fires, evil gods, and death ceremonies, suddenly becomes all too real. Who's behind the murder? Could it happen again? Is the Egypt Game in danger?

My thoughts:

This is one of my very favorite books, a story I read over and over again as a kid. And I love that I get to share that love with kids today through my job! It's a little dated, having been published in 1967, but it wasn't too bad (it should be noted, though, that there is a little weird phrasing about race at the beginning of the book. April is warned that the girl she's going to have lunch with is a Negro). Central to the plot is that these kids are allowed to play by themselves around their neighborhood, which I'm not sure kids today can always do. Rereading it made me hope that my library kids have somewhere outside to get together and play games like this. When I booktalked it, I told the kids it was a book I loved when I was their age, which means it's been around for a loooong time. ;)

This is a story about friendship and about the power of imagination. I love how creative the kids are in making props and costumes and developing stories for their Egypt Game. I love that they use their local library extensively to learn all kinds of things about Ancient Egypt. It's hard to be critical of a book that feels like an old friend to me... so I won't. ;)


For kids who, like me, identify with April and Melanie's creative spirits and want to read about more kids who create amazing worlds with their imagination, I'd suggest Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Doll Bones by Holly Black. Both books will make kids feel the feels.

For kids who are fascinated with Ancient Egypt and would like to read more about it, try The Treasury of Egyptian Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Afterschool: September

This will be our fourth year visiting all of the YMCA Afterschool sites in our school district to read books and do a short craft with them, and our visits started in September. (Although the kids go back to school in August, we generally take August off from programming and we like to give the sites a chance to get into their routines before we start visiting.) You can read more about our Afterschool outreach on the ALSC Blog here and here. Last school year, I posted monthly about what books I was taking on my visits, so check out the afterschool tag for those posts.

Five of my six staff members (including myself) split up visits to the nine Afterschool sites each month. A few of the sites have very large groups (40-50+ students) and I send two people on those visits. I see two of the sites and my two groups are very different. Site A is located in the city and this year it's a very young group - lots of new Kindergarteners - which I'm hoping will make it a little bit easier this year. (Last year, this site had lots of older kids who were too-cool-for-school, so I had to be very strategic in what I brought.) Site B is located in one of our most affluent suburbs and they love books and will sit through anything that I bring. It is not unusual for me to read four or five books to this group and I'll often bring longer books knowing that they can handle it.

Sometimes I'll bring the same books to each site and sometimes I'll have some overlap and then sometimes I'll read completely different things. It all just depends on how the visits go.

So, here's what I read in September:

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall. Houghton Mifflin, 1977. I always start the year with this one because it's one of my favorites and a perennial favorite of the kids. The kids who have heard it before know the surprise ending and delight in keeping the secret (or blurting it out... either way). The canvas bag we bring to each visit has Viola Swamp's picture on it, so it's a great way to introduce our program to new faces and connect all our visits.

A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems. Disney-Hyperion, 2013. Add this to the growing list of Elephant and Piggie books that make GREAT readalouds. My kids at Site B are especially huge fans of Elephant and Piggie and they were so happy that I had brought a new one to share. If you do voices, make sure to practice your HUGE WHALE voice.

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Scholastic Press, 2013. I wasn't sure how this one would go over and if the kids would get it, so I skipped it with Site A (so many Kindergarteners!), but the kids at Site B really liked it. Voice inflection is really important with this one to tell the dialog apart. This would also make a GREAT book to share with kids working on punctuation or possibly English language learners to demonstrate the different voice sounds when asking a question or making an exclamation.

CDC by William Steig. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1984. Okay, so I brought this one to Site A anticipating all those older, punky kids. When I was faced with a group of mostly-Kindergarteners, I wasn't sure how it would go and I would have skipped it, but they asked me for a third book (saying, "You always bring three books, Miss Abby!"), so I tried it. And for the most part it went way over their heads. I had one little girl who got the idea and would chime in with the answers, but it just didn't work with the group I had. The idea is that each spread is a phrase that's written out in letters or numbers that sound like words or parts of words. You read the letters/numbers and the kids try to decipher what the message is (with help from an illustration). The cover image "CDC?" translates to "See the sea?", etc. It's a fun book and great for older kids who like word games, but it just didn't go for my Afterschool crowd. Lesson learned! We only tried a few of the spreads and then I decided it was time to move on to our craft.

This month's craft was complete-the-picture, inspired by 25 Days of Art: Complete the Picture from In the Children's Room. We cut cardstock into half-sheets and used leftover magazine cutouts from when we did I Spy Collages last year. We had a volunteer glue a small picture on to each cardstock piece and the kids could select a picture to add a background or complete their picture. The kids enjoyed it and some of them were really creative with it!

What are your favorite real-alouds for the K-4th set?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Boxes of Books for Teachers at the @ALSCBlog

Friends, today I'm at the ALSC Blog talking about our School Collection program where we check out boxes of books to teachers for classroom use. Please head over there and check it out!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. Grades 4-7. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013. 289 pages. Review copy provided by my local library (of course!).


How would you like to spend the night in the library? Well, if it's Luigi Lemoncello's fantastic, state-of-the-art public library, I bet you would. Complete with holographic librarians, a room full of educational video games, and animatronic animals, Mr. Lemoncello has used his fortune to build the most amazing library the world has ever seen.

Kyle Keeley loves games and he's great at them. Video games, scavenger hunts, board games, puzzles... Books? Not so  much. So Kyle blows off the essay contest that will award a handful of lucky kids an invitation to a lock-in at the new library. But when Kyle discovers that his favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, designed the library, he's determined to be there. And it turns out that getting in is the easy part. After a night full of games and prizes and fabulous snacks, Mr. Lemoncello challenges the kids with one final game: use what's in the library to get out of the library. They can't get out the way they got in (through the front door) and the winner will get fame and fortune beyond his imagination. But the clock is ticking... Can Kyle find a way to beat the ultimate game-maker's ultimate game?

My thoughts:

This one is so, so fun. Melissa of Book Nut called it Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Westing Game for book lovers and I couldn't agree more. There are puzzles to figure out, motives to uncover, an amazing library to explore, and (maybe best of all) references to kids' books scattered throughout. This is the ultimate treat for book lovers and I just really wanted the book to be longer so that I didn't have to stop reading it. (And that is a big compliment because I love finishing a book and logging it in my GoodReads.)

Also, I guess the Escape part of the title lead me to believe that the book would be a little scary, but it's not. It's nice, clean fun and it would make a great family readaloud, especially for a family of bookworms.


The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Wendy Mass's imaginative story of kids spending the night at a candy factory in a contest to design the perfect sweet has a similar storyline. The cast of characters, each with his or her different motivations to win the contest, is also an appeal factor.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This is another story about kids getting invitations to romp through a magical place. Willy Wonka shares many similarities with Mr. Lemoncello, both eccentric millionaires who have designed amazing spaces.

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin is a mystery story with tons of puzzles to solve throughout the book. Kids who enjoyed the games-playing and puzzle aspects of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library may like this one, as well.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This mystery story features a large, diverse cast of characters having to find many clues to puzzle out the Westing will. Again, for kids who like to collect clues and try to figure things out, this may be a good choice.